We all remember our Economics 101 lesson that price is the equilibrium point between supply and demand, and that fact has not changed. Right now, there are a plethora of opinions about the future direction of natural gas (NG) prices, both immediate and long-term, and you have probably heard most of them. Suffice to say, with the range of projected NG prices so wide, I decided to take a hard look at the data and keep my projected view of NG prices on a very short-term timeframe. Quite frankly, looking out more than one year is pure speculation even if it’s based on educated analysis.
The U.S. Energy Department (EIA) reported that U.S. gas inventories were 2.2 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) for the week ending February 22nd, a decline of nearly 6% year-to-date (YTD) compared to last year for the same period; however, storage remains 16% above the five-year average. Comparing the YTD averages since 2008, NG still remains above prior years except for 2012. So we have good news and bad news, good that 2013 NG levels are running below 2012, bad that NG levels still remain at very high levels.
Let’s look at the good news; it appears that NG production has slowed in early 2013. I looked at my NG database that covers U.S. NG production; year-over-year production 4Q 2012 to 4Q 2011 is flat at roughly 0.0% with the multinationals down 4% YoY on the quarter, and the U.S. Independent E&Ps up only 2% YoY on the quarter.
This week I am focusing on energy trends in global natural gas (NG) supply and demand; or as the Russians prefer to call NG, “the blue fuel,” due to its blue burning properties.
Unlike our more popular hydrocarbon — crude oil — there is no talk of “peak gas”—at least for now. Global NG production has increased at an annual compound rate of 5.3% since 2000, while crude oil’s comparable growth rate has been 1.0%—so we are not running out of NG, and the world is amply supplied or in balance overall. However, there are supply/demand imbalances across regional NG markets.
The major reason for the regional imbalances is that while crude oil is highly fungible or easily transportable, NG is not, which makes NG globally a highly segmented market. While NG can trade under $3.00 per thousand cubic feet (Mcf) in North America, it commands prices north of $15 Mcf in Asia.
Let’s build upon last week’s long-term bullish case for crude oil. Much has been said about, “Global Peak Oil” production in the last few years, and probably for good reason. We know that U.S. crude oil production peaked in the early 1970s just as Mr. King Hubbert predicted back in the late 1950s.
But, is peak global oil production just around the corner?
Energy industry analysts believe that global oil production will peak sometime between 2015 and 2025. That sounds like a fairly broad range. However, the reality is that it’s a fairly short timeframe in geologic time that does not even register a notch, and it’s rapidly coming upon us.
(Read More: Five Misconceptions About Peak Oil)
I’m not a forecaster, but I have studied oil supply and demand for the last 20 years, and I do believe that global crude oil production has reached a plateau, and may very well peak sooner than we think.
Why? For one thing, on average, the global natural decline rate of producing wells is roughly 7% plus or minus 1% or 2%. That means production has to grow at least 8% a year to register a net positive increase.
Hi, I’m Lou Gagliardi, an energy industry specialist who has ‘lived through the energy cycles.’ I would like to introduce myself to the readers at Energy Trends Insider. The topic of my column will be in energy finance and investment research. My goal will be to lay out the energy terrain to help you manage risk while enjoying the upside benefits of the sector’s long-term bullish trends. I will analyze and explain what energy industry trends you need to focus on to find long-term investment opportunities that balance risk and reward trade-offs.
But first a little bit about my career and experience.
I began my career doing project economics at Texaco for all facets of the energy value chain from upstream, downstream to midstream. I eventually segued to covering oil and gas companies at IHS Herold’s valuation shop. At Herold, I provided fundamental equity investment research. My core specialties run the entire energy value chain from oil, gas, and power markets to company coverage of Western multinationals, U.S. E&Ps, Canadian oil sands, national oil companies, refining, alternative energy, MLPs, pipelines, and oil service providers.
Over the years I have been interviewed by CNBC, the New York Times, Forbes, and the Financial Times, regarding Canadian oil sands, emerging markets, Enron and El Paso. I was featured in Robert Bryce’s book on the downfall of Enron, having notified clients of Enron’s financial inadequacies prior to the market’s awareness.